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Illegal, unscientific sand mining in Sutlej basin reaches alarming level, Locals living in panic of floods

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SHIMLA- Illegal and unscientific sand mining in the Sutlej River basin in Himachal Pradesh has reached an alarming level despite directions from High Court and criticism from environmentalists and locals. The basin is on the verge of destruction that will attract dreadly environmental hazards.  While locals face inconvenience and disappointed from authorities when they seek permission queering sand for their personal use, wealthy and influential people enjoy complete liberty.

Current efforts of the authorities are minimal due to interference of influential people, politicians, and rampant corruption as mining business is involves ridiculous amount of money.  Honest mining or police officials who try to follow their duty and take action against mining mafia are instantly transferred instead of being encouraged.  

Read:Baddi’s Singham – IPS Gaurav Singh slapped with transfer orders for standing against mining and drug mafia

According to a report published in Times of India, mafia has carried out illegal mining up to Satluj River with the depth of 50 to 100 feet and around 600 meter deep pits are already dug.  After sand is finished, the mafia is now extracting stone from the river basin. This can cause diversion of the river towards the village during rainy season. Mafia is even threatening the ancient temples that are on the verge of falling down with the extensive digging. Around 600 meters deep pits have already been dug by illegal miners, first they took off entire sand and on finding no more sand they are now digging stones.

Locals alleged that a month back previous SDM Rampur tried to stop the mafia after receiving complaints, but was soon transferred in couple of days.

People of Busher’s Dutt Nagar are now living in fear that water will flood their houses if the mining mafia isn’t stopped.  They allege that the illegal business is going on with full cooperation from the administration.

Himachal Pradesh Industry Department  claims that 3,875 cases of illegal sand mining have been registered so far. Fines have been imposed in 2,600 cases and  over Rs. 2 crore has been collected as fine. Many other cases remains pending due to ongoing trials.

Also Read: Illegal Mining in Shimla: Mining officials take note of complaints, challans and notices issued to offenders

Himachal Watcher had also reported cases of illegal mining in district Shimla after which the Mining Department conducted raids and caught culprits red-handed. However,  trivial penalties or cases do not bother the wealthy and influential people patronizing illegal mining and dumping. The nexus between Himachal Pradesh Government’s authorities  and mining mafia is openly working for both parties uninterrupted.  Though,  the authorities assures breakdown on the mafia, the condition is only getting worse.  

Also Read/Photos: Blatant illegal mining, dumping on Mashobra-Bekhalti road in broad daylight despite High Court warning

The stretch between Kinnaur and Rampur has witnessed unusually rapid growth of sand mafia during past four years that is now threatening the fragile ecology of Himachal Pradesh. 

The locals are in unrest and alleges that illegal miners are getting protection from the mining officers, but the common people are not allowed to quarry sand in their own field for their personal uses like building construction etc. Despite repeated complaints by locals with the mining department, no actions are taken either by police or mining department officials, who are “bribed” by big miners.  Rather, they only harass villagers.

Also Read: Round the clock illegal mining in Balh, Dharampur, Pandoh rivulets and Beas riverbed

The Industry Department is planning stringent norms and to intensify vigilance and raids on illegal sand queering here. The penalty has been increased. A tractor is fined Rs. 4,500, a truck with a capacity seven tonne is fined Rs. 7,000 and a truck with a capacity of more than 10 tonne is fined Rs. 25,000. The increased penalty is helping minimize the illegal sand mining in the region,” Himachal Pradesh Industry Department Director Rajesh Sharma, told ANI

It’s shocking to witness such non-governance from the elected government. Instead, government authorities are making hay while the sun shines over sand/stone mafia in Himachal.  What the corrupt government officials and illegal miners are not aware of is the environmental catastrophe they are inviting to their own home.   

Environment

Total 332 Bird Species Located in Himachal Pradesh

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Bird Species Count in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-As per the Great Backyard Bird Count (7th Indian edition), the number of bird species in Himachal Pradesh was 332 in 2018, a spokesman of State Forest Department informed on February 21, 2019.  

PCCF (WL) Dr. Savita said that among the Indian States, Himachal Pradesh shared the topmost position with Uttrakhand where the highest number of species was recorded.  

Birding locations included wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, conservation reserves, villages and urban areas. She said that more than 150 bird species were recorded in Mandi, Shimla, Kangra and Sirmaur districts.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a citizen science initiative intended to encourage both amateur and professional bird-watchers to contribute towards the understanding bird and their biology in a better way.

The Department said that amateur birders from across the state contributed in the count in addition to 287 checklists that were uploaded into e-Bird by 55 participants.

 Participation in the event involved a minimum of 15 minutes bird watching during which all the bird species seen were counted and listed.  It involved bird watching sessions with school teachers and students, birding involving local villagers and panchayat representatives and training of frontline staff of the forest department in bird identification.

The Department said a detailed report is in preparation and will be circulated by the first week of March

This initiative was coordinated by Joint Secretary (Forests) Sat Pal Dhiman, Chief Conservator Forest (HQR) Nagesh Guleria, Chief Conservator Forest (WL) South Sushil Kapta, DFO (Hqr) N.P.S. Dhaulta along with other senior officers of the department.

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Watch: IIT Mandi Researchers Use ‘Pollutant Diesel Emissions’ For Water Treatment

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IIT mandi uses diesel soot sponge for water treatment

Mandi- Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology Mandi have used the soot emitted by diesel engines to mop up oil and other organic pollutants from water. Their work has been recently published in the journal – Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

Although diesel engines are known to be superior to other internal combustion engines in terms of lower fuel consumption and better energy release efficiencies, they are associated with significant amounts of particulate emissions.

 The particulates largely comprise soot, which is formed in the fuel rich regions of the burning diesel jets. Increasing environmental concerns and stringent emission standards require the development of both conventional and unconventional means for reducing soot.

 Studies in this area have focused on improving the engine design and incorporating special filters and treatment units at the exhaust end of the vehicle.

Dr. Rahul Vaish, Associate Professor, School of Engineering at IIT Mandi and his research students Vishvendra Pratap Singh and Moolchand Sharma have looked at this problem from a different perspective.

They rationalized that while it is impossible to bring down soot emissions to zero, it is possible to find a use for the soot produced.

 Carbon species such as carbon nanotubes, graphene, and candle soot have shown their potential in many fields,

says Dr. Vaish,

so why not automobile soot?

It is known that carbon species can absorb various organic pollutants in water. Carbon nanotubes, filter paper, mesh films, and graphene have been used for removing oil from water. Given that the typical carbon content of soot is between 90 and 98%, the team explored the possibility of using this pollutant as an adsorbent of oil and organic contaminants in water.

 There is a rapid increase in oil and chemical leakages from oil tankers or ships and industrial accidents with expansion in oil production and transportation in the last few decades,

the authors write in their recently published paper, justifying the need for new materials to mop up oil and prevent catastrophic environmental outcomes.

 In an earlier study, Dr. Vaish used candle soot to successfully remove two cationic dyes, rhodamine B and methylene blue from water, thereby showing the possibility of organic from water thereby showing the possibility of organic chemical removal by soot. Extending this earlier work, the research team incorporated diesel exhaust soot into polymer sponges to study their capability to adsorb oil and other organic materials from water. This hydrophobic sponge showed high absorption capacity for various oils, without the need for complex pretreatments.

The researchers found that the highest oil absorption capacity was 39 g/g for engine oil. An interesting observation was that the sponges were recyclable and retained 95% efficiency even after 10 cycles.

The diesel soot impregnated sponge could also absorb pollutants like methylene blue, ciprofloxacin, and detergent from the water. This has practical implications.

Apart from oil spills, organic pollutants such as traces of dyes and detergent coming from industries and households are a major contributor to water pollution,

says Dr. Vaish.

The soot impregnated sponge can help in developing cost-effective remediation processes for common domestic and industrial pollutants. Such a development would additionally serve to repurpose automobile waste.

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Environment

Watch: Baddi’s Kenduwal dumping yard exposes hypocrisy over Swachh Bharat

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Baddi solid waste management plant

Solan: The government agencies in Himachal Pradesh are quite infamous for disrespecting court orders, especially those relating to environmental protection. This time, we have a case where the local civic body first created an illegal dumping yard on a site selected and cleared for an integrated waste management facility and now covering it with soil and mud after the matter reached the State High Court.

In fact, the government does only what the court orders it to do after activists or the common people file petitions. There is a very clear hypocrisy going on over the Swachh Bharat campaign, which is often used to gain political mileage.

So far, the government has given no sign about being serious when it says, “The government is committed to protect and preserve the environment and ecology of the State.”

The ground-level situation of Solid Waste Management (SWM) in Himachal Pradesh can be best used to demonstrate this hypocrisy by both the current and succeeding governments and the public itself. There is no limit to the callousness of the government agencies at both local as well as the state levels.

Baddi MC waste

If we take up a particular case, then Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh area in Solan district is perhaps in the worst state. The Municipal Council of Baddi and BBN Development Authority (BBNDA) are responsible for the collection and scientific disposal of waste generated in the area. Both agencies had joined hands with a proposal of managing waste disposal in the BBN area.

The MC and BBNDA were supposed to establish a facility where collected waste could be disposed of scientifically. They had obtained the clearance for the same on August 13, 2015, and were allotted 42 bighas and 13 Biswas of land in Kenduwal.

However, as expected, the facility never came into existence. Instead, the MC and BBNDA began dumping MC waste at the selected site and turned it into a big open dumping yard. Within a couple of years, the life of the locals residing very near to this illegally created dumping site became a hell as every day they faced foul smell, flies, mosquitoes.

The nearest house is located merely at a distance of 30 meters while the Sirsa river floodplain is not far at about 100 meters from the dumping site. The locals, supported by an environmental group Himdhara Collective, approached the local civic body and the district administration several times with their grievance. None of the two disappointed the locals and, as usual, didn’t move a muscle.

About 1200 villagers wrote to the President of India after they were disappointed by their own government. 

The State Pollution Control Board confined itself to issuing repeated notices to the local bodies to solve the grievance of the locals. While the MC and BBNDA didn’t care about these notices, the HP PCB did not proceed to take proper action.

Very recently, the matter reached the State High Court pleading for justice.

In the interregnum, we direct that no garbage shall be dumped into the land owned by the present petitioner or dumped at any other site, save and except, in accordance with law. We further direct the Senior Environmental Engineer of respondent No.3 to visit the site and after inspecting the same, submit his report with regard to the compliance of the statutory provisions,

a bench of then Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goyal had said in its order passsed on October 4, 2018.

However, both responsible bodies violated these orders as well and continued to dump garbage at the same site. The villagers captured videos of the same and wrote an application to the Superintendent of Police, Solan. The SP was informed regarding the violations of the court orders.

Letter to the SP Solan by Kenduwal petitioner

Letter written by villagers to SP Solan

The Court directed the Senior Environmental Engineer of the HP PCB to file a status report regarding this matter within four weeks

As per the report of the Chief Engineer dated October 15, 2018, the MC, Baddi and BBND hardly collect 30-40 percent of total solid waste generated, which is about 50 tons per day in this case. The collected waste is dumped at Kenduwal while remaining can be found scattered near the BBN area.

HP PCB has repeatedly directed the Municipal Council and BBNDA to dispose of the waste in a scientific manner in accordance with the provision of SWR,

2016, the report submitted to the court said.

The Municipal Solid waste is being collected unsegregated and transported to MSW site at Kenduwal where it is being dumped unscientifically. Most of the time it remains exposed in an open atmosphere and sometimes covered with soil layer, which is a breeding place for flies, mosquitoes, rats etc. The nearest human habitation is a house located at about 30 meters from the boundary of the dumping site, whereas the flood plain of river Sirsa is about 100 meters away from the site,

the report said.

The court concluded that despite having a clearance for the proposed facility to dispose of this waste scientifically, the MC and BBNDA failed to perform their duties.

We have gone through the contents of the report and are satisfied that prima facie, Municipal Council, Baddi, as well as Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA), have failed to perform their duties towards collection of solid waste and its dumping in a scientific manner at the MSW disposal site at Kenduwal, for which requisite clearance has been already granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests,

a Bench of Chief Justice Surya Kant and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel directed the MC and BBNDA.

The court also directed the local agencies to take immediate action on the report of the Senior Environmental Engineer.

We direct both the aforesaid Agencies to immediately act upon the report of the Senior Environmental Engineer and submit their respective compliance reports within four weeks. Any delay or defiance will be viewed seriously,

the court directed the MC and BBNDA.

However, the entire waste at the dumping site is being buried under mud and soil.

MC Baddi/BBDNA may be asked to transport the waste as per the past practice of disposing the waste to the Jaypee Plant in Sector 25 of Chandigarh or to Mars Envirotech Ltd. Lalroo (Dera Basssi), Punjab or setting up of ward level compositing/shredding machines till the erection, commissioning and time-bound setting up of Solid Waste Management facility at Kenduwal Baddi, for the cluster of Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh area,

the report submitted to the court said.

According to the 2011 Census, the total pollutions of the Baddi MC and BBNDA area were 29911 and 29293 respectively while the total amount of waste generated per day was 25.50 tons and 20.30 tons respectively. The number of migrant labourers or workers from other states was not included in this Census. The populations in both the areas have increased by 2018, which implies growth in a waste generation too. But the responsible government bodies, as well as the district administration, are completely blank when it comes to the chapter on waste management. The Solid Waste Rules, 2016, do exist but only in papers.

The report of the PCB Environmental Engineer aptly proves it.

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